Daisy Miller

The Verdict on Winterbourne in Daisy Miller

Many have written about the guilt or innocence of Henry James' heroine, Daisy Miller. In her story, James tells of a young American girl in Europe who ignores Old World conventions and goes about, unchaperoned, with two gentlemen: one, an American ex-patriot whom she loves and the other, a fortune-hunting foreigner whom she uses to get back at the man she loves. Some posit that Daisy Miller is a reckless flirt, totally aware, but heedless, of what her actions mean to her reputation. Others find her heedlessness innocent and forthright. But Daisy does not act in a vacuum. As critic Samuels notes, Daisy “is less culpable than those who persecute her. Her story is really about them" (174).

The character who straddles the gulf between persecution and understanding of the essence of Daisy is the ex-patriot, Frederick Winterbourne. He has an awareness, that the other characters do not, of his own influence over Daisy, as well as of her resolve to follow her heart. Winterbourne's words and actions lead Daisy, first to a series of assumptions about social behavior in Europe, then to some about the state of his feelings, and then to a reckless defiance of convention when those assumptions prove false.

In their first meeting,...

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